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Road Rage in the Old West


In the news today, we often hear about car accidents on the highway - from minor fender benders to serious multiple car pile-ups. Though modern cars have caused many accidents, the stagecoaches of the old west had their fair share of calamities too, such as broken wheels, tipping coaches, and runaway horses. On this date in 1907, the Minot Daily Reporter printed a surprising story about a vicious attack on the Dogden stagecoach line, comparable to some of the worst incidents of road rage today.

Mr. F.W. Toombs, a piano man from Fargo, stopped in Minot the night before to regale the townspeople with a harrowing tale of revenge and adventure on the stage trail between Balfour and Dogden. On one calm moonlit night, Toombs and several other passengers journeyed by stagecoach down the dusty road from Dogden. But their peaceful ride was about to be disturbed by a vengeful man who had a grudge against their driver, Mr. Graviog.

Farmer William Davidson drove his team of horses down the road to find Graviog and seek revenge on his enemy. When Davidson caught up with the passenger coach, he drove up behind them, whipped his horses into a frenzied gallop, and zipped past Graviog's team. Cutting sharply in front of the stagecoach, Davidson startled the horses, and they veered dangerously to the side. As its horses ran wild, the stagecoach sped toward disaster. The farmer persisted in the attack, crowding Graviog's team and trying to force his vehicle off the road.

Suddenly, the careening coach lost control, and much to the dismay of its passengers, it flipped over. The travelers were thrown from the cab in all directions, but they were lucky to have escaped. For just then, the horses lunged, dragging the overturned stagecoach behind them, and smashing it to splinters upon the road. Mr. Toombs was badly bruised and others sustained worse injuries; but surprisingly, no one was killed during the malicious assault. Mr. Harfft, Mr. Toombs, and Mr. Graviog, sent their written testimonies to government officials in Washington, hoping to convict Davidson for his cruel attack. Though the term "road rage" was created years later to describe angry, fist-shaking automobile drivers, it's safe to say that Graviog and his passengers experienced one of its earliest forms.

Dakota Datebook written by Carol Wilson


Minot Daily Reporter, August 11, 1907.